- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. (AP) - Richard “Trip” Baker has been through more dark times than any young kid should have to go through.

Baker, a Make-A-Wish kid, received a private hockey rink on Saturday, and what used to be a dreary and unknown future has suddenly taken a turn for the bright side.

Make-A-Wish raises money for kids with life-threatening medical conditions. The organization finds kids and helps make wishes come true, creating a memory of a lifetime for those who need it most.

Make-A-Wish has seen huge activity in Sweetwater County. Every year high schools in the county set aside time to raise money for a sponsored kid. County residents go above and beyond during fundraisers, and many wishes in Wyoming are granted using the money that is raised every year.

Baker was sponsored by Farson-Eden High School and finally received a private hockey rink. Originally, Baker wanted to take a trip to Disneyland. However, he changed plans when he decided that a hockey rink would better suit him and his goals in life.

Hockey isn’t just a sport to the young skater, it is everything.

A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE

Baker plays hockey for one of the Miners’ teams. The local hockey organization offers kids the chance to develop and learn the sport.

In December 2012, Baker had finished a hockey game and felt as normal as any young boy should be. However, when he took off his pads, his parents noticed that he had bruises all over his body.

Soon after, Baker was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer in the white blood cells that has damaging effects that can even lead to death.

Baker’s doctors told him that he would be unable to play hockey or any contact sport due to the sickness. According to his father, Rick Baker, that didn’t sit well with Trip.

“He was told when he first got sick that he won’t play hockey again,” Rick Baker said. “And it devastated him.”

During his illness, the Baker family came in contact with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Shortly after, Trip was selected as a sponsored wish kid.

Wanting to go to Disneyland, he had forgotten about hockey and had doubt that he would ever play again. Nevertheless, when he received the good news after a successful transplant, the trip went out the window.

“After he received the transplant and things started to normalize, the doctors allowed him to play,” Rick Baker said. “He played last year, but he’s still weak, still frail. He was in bed for three months.

“He said he wanted to get back to where he was. He wanted to start, and that’s all he wanted. The rink idea came into action,” Rick Baker said.

While the rink may serve the purpose of keeping Trip and his friends busy, it means much more to the family than anyone can imagine.

“When you are in the deepest, darkest place you can be, and your kid is dying, it’s something to look forward to. It’s something to help get past the despair. It’s not just for him. Our joy in his joy is fundamental, so to have him have something to look forward to, to dream about is monumental,” Rick Baker said.

The Make-A-Wish donation has been a life-changing experience that the Baker family has been thankful for and will never forget.

“Having this (rink) helps take some of that pain away,” Rick Baker said.

As for Trip himself, doctors cannot guarantee that his illness is completely gone, but so far things are heading in the right direction. For now, he can live life a little more normal and get back to his favorite sport.

“The whole story was that he was told he would never play again. That’s not going to happen. He’s not going to let that happen. He can’t let that happen,” Rick Baker said.

Trip’s father said the rink is more than just a wish and that hockey helped heal his son.

“It goes beyond just a wish. Hockey was therapy for him. With the way his feet were, being bed-ridden, and the way the chemotherapy affected his feet, it’s rather ironic. One of his treatments broke down the bone mass on the top of his foot and he couldn’t walk or run. He went from being one of the fastest kids to being one of the slowest. As soon as we put skates back on his feet, the boot held his foot in the proper position so as he was skating, it was rehabilitating his feet,” he said.

“Every aspect of hockey for him has been something beyond just a game,” Rick Baker said.

___

Information from: Rock Springs (Wyo.) Rocket-Miner, https://www.rocketminer.com


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